The Hair Styles That Beat Loneliness (Bidi Bidi, Uganda) • Giles Duley / UNHCR

The Hair Styles That Beat Loneliness (Bidi Bidi, Uganda) • Giles Duley / UNHCR

The Hair Styles That Beat Loneliness (Bidi Bidi, Uganda) • Giles Duley / UNHCR

South Sudan has been marred by violence and instability since its creation in 2011.War there has led to the displacement of nearly four million people, two million of whom have sought safety as refugees in neighboring countries. About 80 per cent of the displaced are women and children, who are particularly vulnerable.

This huge displacement has led to a fracturing of communities and families. South Sudanese grow up belonging to a tight network of family, extended family, village, clan, tribe; these connections and loyalties are from birth. Young mothers in particular often find themselves isolated and alone in the new surroundings of a refugee camp. This has triggered an increasing suicide rate among young women.

As one UNHCR staff member said: “Loneliness is the greatest killer for South Sudanese refugees”.

This is why Sarah and seven other South Sudanese refuges decided to do something about it. Despite having no training, they decided to set up a hair salon in Bidi Bidi refugee camp.

For the women who run the salon it is so much more than a business. They wanted to build their own community for single mothers. And each hairstyle they create is about more than fashion; its a statement. With each style having its own meaning.

“In South Sudan I had a big extended family,” says Mary Sande, “I knew everyone in the village, but when I arrived here, I was alone. My husband left, I had two children. I thought about things too much. Then I found this group, the salon. They are my family. “

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Celina Amana

25 years old

Hairstyle: Banda Pembeni – which means, “better put that other partner aside”

© Giles Duley

Khemisa Mary

26 years old

Hairstyle: The Macron Pencil or Dududu (caterpillar)

© Giles Duley

Susan Mordn

23 years old

Hairstyle: The Kura / Unity – when all the tribes of South Sudan come together like the braids of hair, we will have peace

© Giles Duley

Mary Sande

20 years old

Hairstyle: The Stamina – Stamina is a title of a song that brought Ugandan singer Eddy Kenzo to fame. But it was the dancer in his music video, Ronnie, whose moves wowed the nation. His hairstyle was iconic, and it was quickly being copied in saloons across the region under the name – the Stamina (for his relentless energy).

© Giles Duley

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